On Holiday in the Archives

Pierrot troupe, 'Shorefield Gardens Westcliff 1916'
Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies (LUCAS) organised an event on Saturday, with Sefton MBC, at Southport Arts Centre. This was an afternoon of talks and films about what archives can show us about holidays and seaside resorts.

There were four films from the North West Film Archive, made by railway companies to encourage visitors to travel to northern resorts, and films showing local people made by cinema owners to encourage visitors to their cinemas.

Then Dr Chris Lewis of Victoria County History told us about his investigation into the names of private houses in the seaside town of Goring in West Sussex – an ingenious way to shine light on social history.

Allan Brodie of English Heritage showed us some of the evidence he had uncovered that Liverpool (rather than Margate) can make a claim to be the first seaside resort, in the early 18th century.

Professor John Walton of Leeds Metropolitan University described some of the lateral thiking and detective work required to track down sparse or scattered records of resort life in Britain (and Spain) in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Documented history concerned with these aspects of ordinary lives tends to be thin on the ground, as the whole subject was generally seen as ‘trivial’. But there’s so much more to history than the ‘great and the good’. These archivists and historians were at the seaside, but they were working on illuminating our history…

Above: Photo from the collection Papers relating to English concert parties and pierrot shows, held at the University of Exeter. Image courtesy of University of Exeter Library (Special Collections).